Understanding through softball

April 10, 1994|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,Sun Staff Writer

Back home in Australia, Rachel Bain played quite a bit of cricket. But softball? Well, that's another story.

Bain played a little softball in phys ed class in Sydney before coming to Oakland Mills as an exchange student. She's still learning the game, but Scorpions' coach Joe Staub encouraged her to come out for the team anyway.

Staub hoped Bain, a reserved 18-year-old whose host family includes no teen-agers, would develop more than skills on the softball diamond.

"My idea was to get her involved with the kids and have her develop some friendships," said Staub, who teaches Bain in American history class.

"It's difficult to come in in the middle of the school year, and she's a little older than most of the kids, too. Playing sports is a little different than being in the classroom."

Bain already has graduated from high school and has been accepted to an Australian university to study psychology, but she wanted to take time off to think about her future.

"I don't know what I want to do," said Bain, who also has an interest in art. "I'm not really sure what direction I want to go in, so this will give me time to think about things."

Bain arrived here in January, a month after the school year ended in Australia. But she still is adjusting to the American teen-ager's way of life.

Classes are easier than in Australia she said, but the school day did not begin until 9 a.m. instead of 7:30 at Oakland Mills. "It was quite a shock getting up that early in the morning," said Bain.

Although the American and Australian cultures may seem similar on the surface, Bain has discovered that they differ widely although many of the differences are subtle. "They're hard to describe, because you can't put your finger on them," she said.

But a few differences are more obvious, including food and clothing.

"I can eat [the food], but it tastes different. It's got a different zing to it," said Bain, who found a big difference in the taste of chocolate. She'll eat the American version, but prefers Australian.

As for the way teen-agers dress, "People at school dress up more than we dress up to go out," said Bain, who had to wear a uniform to school.

Playing sports is also different in Australia, where school teams play during phys ed class and compete against other schools once a week.

In a system geared more toward fitness than competition, those not interested in team sports can opt for aerobics or dance classes. Bain took three semesters of cricket and another of jazz dance.

Bain said American high school sports are much more competitive than in Australia, and she wanted to experience the difference.

"I wanted to do a sport because it's kind of American," said Bain. "I thought softball would be the only thing I could get into."

Staub said Bain's hard work had paid off especially at the plate. The reserve outfielder keeps an open mind when it comes to advice offered by her eager teammates, but the help can be a bit overwhelming.

"Most challenging is the technique, learning to do things," said Bain. "One person tells you this way and one tells you that way. You're sort of bombarded by information. It can be a bit confusing."

Her teammates give her high marks for her improvement and her sense of humor.

"Rachel's quiet most of the time," said Scorpions senior captain Kristen Ostlie. "But sometimes, she'll sneak a little something in about back in Australia. When she has something to say, it's always funny. She brings us up."

Staub doesn't see Bain as the only beneficiary of her presence on the team.

"We've been so busy with practice that we don't have a lot of that socializing time yet," said Staub. "When we start taking bus rides to North Carroll and sitting on the bus and talking, I'm hoping they will learn something from her about her culture, too."

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